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Written Statements

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 17 July 2008

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Regulatory Impact Assessment Command Paper

The Government are committed to ensuring that regulations are necessary, give effective protection, balance cost and risk, are fair and command public confidence.

In accordance with this, we require Departments to produce and publish (regulatory) impact assessments for all regulatory proposals likely to have an impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies and the public sector.

I have today presented to Parliament a Command Paper listing impact assessments published between 1 July 2007 and 31 March 2008.

Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House for the reference of members and will be available in the Vote Office.

Government have now launched the impact assessment library, a central website that ensures increased transparency and accessibility to the analysis underpinning the Government’s decision to regulate. The impact assessment library can be found at

As a result of the launch of the impact assessment library, this will be the last Command Paper published providing information on final impact assessments.


National Statistics Annual Report 2007-08

The National Statistics annual report for 2007-08 is being published and laid before Parliament today. Copies are available in the Library of the House and can be accessed on the National Statistics web site.

Tax and Benefit Reference Manual 2008-09

Copies of the 2008-09 edition of the Tax Benefit Reference Manual (TBRM) are today being deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

HM Treasury publishes the TBRM annually. It is a technical manual detailing the tax and benefit system, describing both the current and historic regimes.

EU Funds (Consolidated Statement)

The Government announced in November 2006 that, as part of its work to improve accountability for EU funds across the EU, HM Treasury would prepare an annual consolidated statement, audited by the NAO, on the use of such funds in the United Kingdom. We are today laying before Parliament the first of these statements, along with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) audit opinion and report.

The purpose of this arrangement is to strengthen the audit and parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s use of EU funds and help detect any weaknesses in the UK’s management of these funds so that these can be more effectively and rapidly tackled. The statement and C&AG’s first report sets an excellent basis for doing this.

The C&AG’s positive opinion on regularity clearly shows that the management of EU funds by UK authorities during the period covered by the statement has been sound and that there has be no evidence of material irregularity in the payments made to beneficiaries. The Government welcome this finding, as providing assurance on the management of EU funds in the UK was one of the statement’s key objectives.

The C&AG’s limitation of scope does make it clear that more needs to be done to improve the consistency of the recording and the accounting of EU funding by UK central government bodies. The Government are working to ensure these issues are addressed. In particular, improved guidance is being developed so that all future EU transactions and balances are recorded consistently and separately in the accounts of all the relevant entities. The actions taken this year will be the first in a rolling programme of improvement in this area.

This statement and the improvements that result from it will be important in building momentum for similar action to be taken by our EU partners. Such action is critical, as a positive “statement of assurance” from the European Court of Auditors on the reliability of the EU’s accounts will only ever be obtained if measures to improve the management of agricultural and structural funds are taken by member states as well as the Commission.

In this context, the Government warmly welcome the statements that have been published by the Dutch Finance Ministry and the Danish National Audit Office, as well the Swedish initiative to publish a statement in the spring of next year. In time, the UK hopes to welcome similar reports on the use of EU funds from other member states.

The Government hope this statement and the C&AG’s audit opinion will be helpful to the European Court of Auditors and the Commission when they are performing their own audits and controls. I will be sending copies of this statement to both institutions, as well as to my counterparts in other member states.

It is crucial that EU taxpayers are given the necessary assurance that EU money is being spent correctly. The UK’s initiative to publish this consolidated statement on its use of EU funds will make a positive contribution to ensuring this is the case. I will continue to work to encourage my counterparts in other member states to show a similar degree of commitment to providing such an assurance.

Free Cash Machines (Low-income Areas)

Following the March 2005 Treasury Committee report on ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) charging, the Treasury invited the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, the right hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (John McFall), to chair a Working Group on ATMs to take forward work on key issues. The Working Group, which included banks, independent ATM operators and consumer groups, published its report on 13 December 2006.

The Working Group announced an agreement to provide around 600 new free cash machines across 1,707 target low-income areas that it identified as lacking convenient access to these machines. To achieve this, a market-based financial incentive—known as a “financial inclusion premium”—was introduced, to encourage ATM operators to place or retain free ATMs in deprived areas with a low expected volume of transactions. The Working Group also agreed to implement improved transparency rules for charging cash machines. Since publication of the Working Group report, LINK has assessed around 10 per cent. of the identified low-income areas as unsuitable for an ATM location as there is no centre of population.

The Government are pleased to report that the industry has, over the 18 months following publication of the Working Group’s report, made excellent progress towards its goals of placing around 600 non-charging machines in low-income areas across the UK, with around 2 million individuals on low incomes standing to benefit.

As of 30 June 2008, sites for 562 of the 600 new ATMs required have been identified. Of these, 419 new free machines are already in use and issuing cash to the public. Some 74 per cent. of these ATMs that are based in the target deprived areas receive the “financial inclusion premium”. Encouragingly, nine of these new cash machines have proved so popular that their level of withdrawals means that they have now graduated from the “financial inclusion premium” scheme.

Banks, building societies and independent ATM operators have all contributed new free-to-use cash machines; independent ATM operators have provided or are in the process of supplying around 35 per cent. of the confirmed new non-charging ATMs. The UK ATM network, LINK, is continuing to work with its member banks and ATM operators to identify suitable sites in the remaining target areas, and is engaging closely in this exercise with Members of Parliament, local authorities, consumer councils and retailers.

The benefits in terms of financial inclusion are clear. Data from LINK suggest that the new ATMs currently in operation or under contract will enable almost 1.3 million residents in the target low-income areas to access cash more conveniently and manage their money more effectively.

In terms of improved transparency, operators of cash machines that charge users for withdrawals and that can upload screens remotely, have met the end-June 2007 deadline to improve the onscreen standards of “at a glance” signage. This means that it is clear to a consumer when a charge is applied when withdrawing cash. Good progress was also made by operators in enhancing external signage by end December 2007.

The Government are encouraged by the substantial progress achieved, and would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved in extending free access to cash to those who need it the most.

Full details about progress made is available on the LINK Internet

website at: _progress/index.html

I will be issuing a final statement on the progress stemming from this initiative this December.

Issuer Liability

The Treasury is today publishing “Extension of the Statutory Regime for Issuer Liability”. This sets out the Government’s response to the Davies review of Issuer Liability and contains proposals to extend the statutory civil liability regime for issuer misstatements to the market, established in section 90A of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

HM Revenue and Customs (Office Reorganisation)

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is today publishing the outcomes of a review of HMRC office accommodation housing around 7,500 staff outside its urban centres in the South East, East and West Midlands and North East regions.

These decisions are the latest to emerge from a nationwide series of reviews started in 2006 and designed to create the future shape of the Department. HMRC has engaged widely with trade unions, MPs, local authorities and a range of customer groups as well as with their own employees.

These have not been easy decisions. However, the overriding consideration has to be the Department’s need to address new and challenging customer demands by restructuring its business and estate in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Between now and 2011, HMRC plans to withdraw from locations as circumstances allow and at a pace which enables it to maintain and improve customer services.

All enquiry centres where customers can walk into an office and ask for assistance will remain in their current location or nearby.

Details of the decisions, impact assessments and equality impact assessments will be published on the HMRC website today and MPs will receive email confirmation of decisions relevant to their constituency along with copies of related assessments.


The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 8 July 2008. I attended for the UK. Items on the agenda were as follows:

Presidency Work Programme

The French Presidency presented the ECOFIN work programme for the next six months followed by an exchange of views. As part of the agreed three-presidency approach, the French Presidency will begin the first stages of the common priorities agreed with the incoming Czech and Swedish Presidencies in 2009. These priorities include boosting confidence in the financial system, continuing the integration of the internal market, and responding to citizens’ concerns about the current economic situation. The UK supports the proposed work programme.

Implementation of the stability and growth pact

The Council adopted opinions on the updated stability programme for Belgium and the updated convergence programme for Poland. Ministers also agreed to a draft decision ending the excessive deficit procedure for Poland, repealing ECOFIN’s decision in 2004 noting the existence of an excessive Government deficit. In addition the Council agreed to a decision and recommendations under articles 104(6) and 104(7) of the EC treaty with regard to the UK, placing the UK in excessive deficit procedure.

Adoption of the euro by Slovakia

The Council adopted the legislative acts required for the adoption of the euro by Slovakia from January 2009, finalising the agreement at the June European Council, and adopted regulations for the conversion rate of 30.1260 Slovak korunas to the euro. The UK congratulates Slovakia on the substantial reforms made in order to meet the Maastricht criteria for entry into the single currency.

Oil price trends

Following the discussion at the June European Council, Ministers held an exchange of views on the situation in the oil and fuel markets and on the French Presidency work programme to prepare ECOFIN’s contribution to the October and December European Councils. This included reaching political agreement on the principle of weekly publication of oil stock information. The UK supports the work underway to better understand what is driving the development of oil prices under the guiding principles set out in the Manchester 2005 declaration on the need to avoid distortionary fiscal interventions in the oil markets.

Governance of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)

The Council welcomed the proposals by the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation (IASCF) to enhance its governance structure and to improve the functioning of the IASB, and on that basis adopted conclusions that will be submitted as the European contribution to the public consultation on IASB. The UK supports the efforts to improve internal processes and governance within the IASB, principally through improving the oversight arrangements and the creation of a new monitoring board.

Financial markets: situation and implementation of the Council road map

The Commission presented the state of play on the October 2007 ECOFIN Council roadmap. Ministers agreed to conclusions calling for the fullest possible transparency in order to bring confidence to the market. Ministers also agreed conclusions supporting the need for a strengthened oversight regime for credit rating agencies, which will be based on Commission proposals to follow in the autumn. The UK continues to support work to improve the stability of financial markets, and will accordingly examine the Commission’s proposals in detail.

Budget ECOFIN will be held on 17 July in Brussels and the UK permanent representative will attend and represent the UK. Discussion will be on the preliminary draft budget for the European Communities for 2009 and the meeting will include conciliation with the European Parliament, during which Council and the European Parliament will discuss expenditure levels. Items on the agenda are as follows:

Preparation for the conciliation meeting with the European Parliament;

Conciliation with the European Parliament;

Establishment by the Council of the draft EC Budget for 2009.

Equitable Life

The Parliamentary Ombudsman has today published the report of her investigation into the prudential regulation of the Equitable Life Assurance Society from 1988 to the end of November 2001.

The ombudsman’s investigation was launched in 2004 following the publication of Lord Penrose’s independent forensic investigation into the events at Equitable Life (HC 290). He concluded that Equitable Life’s own actions ultimately precipitated its financial difficulties in the summer of 2000.

The ombudsman has looked at the application of the now replaced prudential regulatory regime under the Insurance Companies Act 1982. Her investigation has covered issues of considerable factual and technical complexity.

Against this backdrop, it was necessary for the bodies subject to the ombudsman’s investigation to make detailed representations on a number of occasions throughout the investigation. Those representations were put forward at the ombudsman’s request to assist her review of the evidence. They highlighted substantive differences of view between the bodies and the ombudsman which she has responded to in the report published today.

The Government recognise that the ombudsman’s report raises issues of concern to all interested parties. The length and complexity of the report mean that the Government will need to consider the report carefully before giving their response to the House in the autumn.

Communities and Local Government

Planning Inspectorate Annual Report and Accounts 2007-08

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government is today laying before the House a copy of the “Planning Inspectorate’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2007-08”.

The report gives an overview of the performance of the inspectorate and demonstrates the importance of a credible, accessible planning tribunal service that is open, transparent and impartial. It also highlights the ways in which the inspectorate is supporting the Government’s drive for a faster and fairer planning system.

The report reveals that the planning inspectorate in England hit 25 per cent. more of its key performance targets this year. In addition, it significantly reduced the backlog of its oldest cases. The inspectorate had also halved the waiting time for setting public inquiry dates for planning appeals to just 10 weeks by the end of the year.

In Wales the planning inspectorate has again performed to a high standard meeting all but one of its ministerial targets. The total number of planning appeal decisions has increased by nearly 4 per cent. since 2006-07. My noble Friend Baroness Andrews has agreed with Jane Davidson AM, Minister for Environment Sustainability and Housing for the Welsh Assembly Government, that the inspectorate’s targets for its main areas of casework in 2008-09 should remain unchanged.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

South East of England Regional Spatial Strategy

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is today publishing proposed changes to the draft revisions to the regional spatial strategy for the South East (The South East Plan).

The regional spatial strategy forms part of the statutory development plan for every local authority in the South East, and sets the framework for the production of local development frameworks and local transport plans. It provides the spatial plan for the development of the region, providing the policy framework for employment, housing, transport and the environment over the next 20 years.

The current strategy, initially published as regional planning guidance, became the regional spatial strategy in September 2004 with the enactment of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. A draft revision of the regional spatial strategy was submitted to Government in March 2006 by the South East England Regional Assembly. It was subsequently tested in an examination in public (EIP) between December 2006 and March 2007 and the report of the independent panel which conducted the examination was published in August 2007.

The Secretary of State has considered the recommendations of the independent panel and has taken into account the representations made on the draft revision and any recent changes in Government policy.

Today’s publication of the Secretary of State’s proposed changes represents the commencement of a public consultation period which will close on 24 October 2008. Also being published for comment are the reports of a sustainability appraisal and a habitats regulations assessment of the proposed changes. A non-technical summary is available of these documents.

Following consideration of the responses to consultation, the Secretary of State expects to be able to publish the finalised regional spatial strategy for the South East by the end of the year. On final publication it will supersede the current RSS.

I have written to the chairman of the regional assembly to give notice of the publication of the proposed changes and thanked the assembly and its staff for their hard work in preparing the draft revisions.

The documents will be accessible from today on the Government Office for the South East website and made available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Copies will be provided for all of the region’s MPs, MEPs and local authorities, and sent to all those who participated in the EIP and other interested parties and organisations required by the regulations.

North West England Regional Spatial Strategy

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will be publishing the final revision of the regional spatial strategy for the North West of England in late August or early September. On publication it will supersede the current RSS. Also to be published are the reports of a consolidated sustainability appraisal, a habitats regulations assessment and sustainability statement.

The published regional spatial strategy will form part of the statutory development plan for every local authority in the North West, and set the framework for the production of local development frameworks and local transport plans. It will provide the spatial plan for the development of the region, and the policy framework for employment, housing, transport and the environment.

The current strategy, initially published as regional planning guidance, became the regional spatial strategy in September 2004 with the enactment of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. A draft revision of the regional spatial strategy was submitted to Government in January 2006 by the North West regional assembly. It was subsequently tested in an examination in public between November 2006 and February 2007, and the report of the independent panel which conducted this examination was published in May 2007. The Secretary of State considered the recommendations of this independent panel, and took into account the representations made on the draft revision, and also changes in Government policy since the draft revision was submitted, before publishing proposed changes for further public consultation between March and May 2008.

On publication, a further statement and copies of the relevant documents will be available in the Libraries of both Houses and copies sent to the region’s MPs and MEPs, members of the Opposition Front Bench and local authorities.

Communities and Local Government

Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps for Communities

Tomorrow I shall be announcing a package of measures to further our work on preventing violent extremism, concerned with building better connections with local places; fostering community leadership and improving theological understanding.

The launch of “Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps for Communities”, at Manchester town hall, will fulfil a public commitment that we made in our April 2007 “Winning Hearts and Minds” action plan to provide an update on the progress of our work and to articulate Communities and Local Government’s future priorities on Prevent.

Lord Patel of Bradford undertook some work for me visiting a number of local authorities across the country and a wide range of stakeholders. We will continue to reflect on Lord Patel’s findings over summer 2008 alongside other review and evaluation work on the Prevent being undertaken across Government. We will set out our conclusions and the further action we propose to take to help develop community approaches later this year.

Regeneration Strategy for England

I am today publishing “Transforming Places, changing lives: a framework for regeneration”. This document sets out an ambitious package of proposals—for consultation—that aim to shape the way that regeneration is carried out in future in England. Publishing the framework fulfils a commitment from the 2007 sub-national review of economic development and regeneration.

We have made great strides in regeneration in the last 10 years, narrowing the gap between the most deprived neighbourhoods and the rest. The new approach builds on what we know works.

The framework contains a renewed focus on ensuring that regeneration tackles the underlying economic challenges to increase social mobility and support people to reach their potential, regardless of where they live. Specifically, the measures proposed aim to:

ensure that regeneration investment is co-ordinated and prioritised in the right places, with public, private, and third sector organisations working together in the same places towards a shared vision;

devolve power—decisions about where to invest should be made as locally as possible, so this framework proposes an approach to prioritisation that starts with communities and their councils, and aims to align investment behind local and regional regeneration priorities—making programmes fit places, not places fit programmes; and

focus regeneration investment on tackling the underlying economic challenges that hold places back, in particular supporting people to get a job and then progress within the labour market as well as boosting levels of enterprise in those areas.

The framework proposes that all regeneration should be aligned behind three priority outcomes:

improving economic performance in the areas that have not yet made the same progress as other areas;

improving rates of work and enterprise in these areas; and

creating sustainable places where people want to live and can work, and businesses want to invest.

The consultation is accompanied by an impact assessment. Copies have been placed in the House Library or it can be accessed via the Communities and Local Government website at:

The consultation closes on 31 October 2008.

Culture, Media and Sport

Free Swimming

Following the announcement the Secretary of State for Health and I made on 6 June 2008, I am today setting out further details of the Government’s free swimming scheme in partnership with local government. This cross-Government announcement set out a £140 million package comprising contributions from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Health, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This statement, and the arrangements it sets out, have been developed across Government with the help of the Amateur Swimming Association, the Local Government Association, Sport England and others.

The Government are keen to encourage as many local authorities as possible to participate in making swimming free for over 60s and under 16s in their local communities, but also to stimulate ambitious authorities to maximise and sustain uptake through other initiatives such as free lessons for adults who cannot swim, the introduction of swimming co-ordinators and to provide incentives for the most ambitious to move further towards a universal free swimming offer.

We hope this statement will give local authorities the information they need to start planning for their budget setting cycle and to decide the extent to which they wish to exploit the opportunities offered by the scheme to improve the health and well-being of their communities and support delivery of local priorities as set out in their respective local area agreements.

Pot 1: Free swimming for the over 60s

Swimming is the most popular participation activity for the over 60s, with 7 per cent. taking part in swimming at least once a month. Swimming has the same health benefits as other forms of physical activity. Additionally, regular swimming builds endurance, muscle strength and cardio-vascular fitness and, as a low impact activity, is ideal for the elderly and those recovering from injury. The Government are keen to encourage as many local authorities as possible to participate in making swimming free for over 60s in their area. To achieve this, central Government is making available £15 million per annum in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

The Government will write at the start of next week to the chief executives of all local authorities in England which are responsible for leisure services to ask them to confirm, by no later than 15 September 2008, whether they wish to take up this offer. This letter will set out the resource funding the local authority will be allocated from pot 1 in 2009-10 and 2010-11 if it chooses to participate. This allocation is calculated according to a simple formula based on the size of the local over-60 population. Funding will be distributed through a specific grant, details of which will be set out in the letter to local authorities.

The qualifying criteria for the scheme are simple. Free swimming for the over 60s means that people in that age group who wish to swim at any time throughout the year when they would normally be admitted to the pool for public swimming, and in accordance with local programming, should not be charged.

Authorities who already offer free swimming that would otherwise have qualified for this funding may deploy their allocation to fund initiatives that will further increase and sustain participation for the over 60s and extend such measures to wider groups of the population.

Pot 2: Free swimming for the under 16s

Swimming remains a popular activity for children, with 38 per cent. of 11 to 16-year-olds participating in swimming in and out of school at least once a month. The Government are keen to extend the principle of making swimming free to the under 16s. To support this, central Government are making available £25 million per annum in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

All local authorities who choose to participate in pot 1 are also invited to submit, no later than 15 September 2008, an expression of interest to make swimming free for under 16s. For these authorities, details of their prospective allocation from pot 2 will be provided no later than 30 September 2008. They will then be invited to confirm, by no later than 15 October 2008, whether they wish to take up this offer. Funding will again be distributed through a specific grant.

As for the over 60s, we have made the qualifying criteria for the scheme simple. Free swimming for the under 16s means that people in that age group who wish to swim out of normal school hours throughout the year when they would normally be admitted to the pool for public swimming, and in accordance with local programming, should not be charged.

Again, local authorities who already offer free swimming that would otherwise have qualified for this funding may deploy their allocation to fund initiatives which will further increase and sustain participation for the under 16s and extend such measures to wider groups of the population.

We hope that local authorities will work creatively with local partners, including primary care trusts, to access funds from other sources such as the working neighbourhoods fund, extending activities and the Big Lottery Fund, as well as from the private sector.

Pot 3: Modernising pool provision—capital reward fund

To support local authorities in making swimming free for the over 60s and under 16s, we are also making available £10 million of capital funding in 2008-09 to modernise pool provision. All authorities that sign up to participate in pot 1 and pot 2 will be entitled to a one-off capital grant in 2008-09.

Pot 3 will be allocated amongst all authorities that choose to participate in both pot 1 and pot 2, based on population shares.

Pot 4: Modernising pool provisioncapital challenge fund

Local authorities have welcomed the opportunity to refurbish and modernise pool provision. Central Government are also making available £25 million capital per annum in 2009-10 and 2010-11 to modernise pool provision and support more ambitious plans for free swimming.

Sport England will administer the capital challenge fund on behalf of the Government, and will publish a prospectus for bids for funding by 31 July 2008. Local authorities which have committed to pot 1 and pot 2 will be invited to submit costed plans for pot 4 by no later than 15 October 2008.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Products (Imports)

As required under the Animal Health Act 1981, as amended by the Animal Health Act 2002, the Government will publish a review of controls on the import of animal products for the financial year 2007-08 on Thursday 24 July. I am pleased to be able to report on activity during the past year aimed at reducing the risk of disease entering the country via imports of animal products.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) remains committed to taking effective, proportionate, risk-based and intelligence-led enforcement measures to prevent illegal imports, and continues to target the routes that pose the greatest disease risk.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and HMRC continue to undertake a great deal of publicity within the United Kingdom, at the border and overseas. In January 2008 DEFRA relaunched the black and minority ethnic personal food imports campaign thus continuing to raise awareness of the personal import rules and also trying to encourage behavioural change so illegal food products are not brought in to the country.

DEFRA, with HMRC and the Food Standards Agency, has also used a wide range of other communication channels to promote our message. We will continue to monitor and assess the changing threats from around the world, and work with HMRC/United Kingdom Border Agency to make sure that our enforcement activity is targeted at the current risks.

Copies of the review will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses, and following publication on the DEFRA “personal food imports” website (, sent to stakeholders for information, seeking their feedback. Hard copies will also be available on request.

Poultry Register

My noble Friend Lord Rooker has today announced changes in the use of personal data held on the GB poultry register in England and Wales following a public consultation. The changes will come into effect on 1 August 2008. Copies of the report summarising the responses to the public consultation will be deposited in the Library of the House.

The register was set up in December 2005 in response to increased threat of outbreaks of avian influenza. Poultry keepers with more than 50 birds are legally required to provide essential information about their premises to populate the register. To date, the register has been used for avian influenza risk assessment, prevention and control.

Decisions on changes of use of the register took into account the views of individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation as well as the wider public and taxpayer interest, given that the register is a valuable resource. The intention has been to achieve a balance between the benefits of appropriate data sharing, including public protection and improving public services, and the proper respect for personal data in line with our data protection obligations.

Use of personal data on the register will be extended in the following areas:

management of other poultry diseases (in addition to avian influenza), including other notifiable diseases and zoonoses;

planning, response and recovery by the emergency services and other responders in civil emergencies affecting poultry premises, including avian disease outbreaks;

planning of visits related to legislation on veterinary medicines and on animal welfare;

providing information as necessary to the EC to substantiate UK claims for compensation from the EU in the event of a disease outbreak;

informing the work of DEFRA and Welsh Assembly Government statisticians and economists in the development of evidence-based policy;

informing the annual agricultural census and hence enabling the poultry questions to be removed from the census;

facilitating (non-commercial) ad-hoc surveys as part of DEFRA and Welsh Assembly Government’s regional and national activities towards achieving their strategic objectives, including for example England’s sustainable food and farming strategy and GB’s animal health and welfare strategy. This may also include the provision of advice and information to individual poultry keepers; and

informing the development of future customer contact management and registration as part of Animal Health’s business reform programme.

It is important to note that the register will not be available freely to new users in connection with these purposes. DEFRA (Animal Health) will issue extracts of the register as necessary to the new users in response to receiving a specific request for personal data but only if satisfied that access to personal data is necessary for the purposes identified above and that appropriate data management arrangements are in place. These arrangements shall be in line with the advice in the Government’s recently published report on data handling procedures1 which is available in the Libraries of both Houses, and with policies and advice in response to the recommendations from the recently completed independent review on data sharing by Richard Thomas and Dr. Mark Walport2. For example, measures being put in place across Government Departments and agencies include:

mandatory training for all staff involved in handling personal data;

further enhancing the transparency of arrangements, through annual reporting to Parliament on progress and the use of information charters which provide clarity to the public about the use and handling of personal data.

The additional uses of the register will make the best of this valuable resource. We take very seriously our responsibilities for the proper handling of personal data and will ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the personal data of keepers in line with our legal obligations.

1“Data Handling Procedures in Government: Final Report” June 2008

2“Data Sharing Review”, by Richard Thomas and Mark Walport available at:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Lisbon Treaty (Ratification)

Following the enactment of the EU (Amendment) Bill, the Government completed the ratification process for the Lisbon treaty on 16 July by depositing its instrument of ratification in Rome.


Official Receptions

I have today published a list of official receptions hosted by Ministers at the Department of Health for the financial year 2007-08. The total cost of official receptions for the financial year 2007-08 was £2,129.

Official Receptions Hosted by Department of Health Ministers 2007-08





24 July 2007

Reception for media correspondents to meet Secretary of State and Ministerial team, national clinical directors and Media Centre staff.


Alan Johnson

9 October 2007

Stakeholder reception for launch of Green Paper on adult social care funding.


Ivan Lewis

17 December 2007

Reception for key departmental



Ivan Lewis

17 December 2007

Reception for media correspondents to meet Secretary of State and Ministerial team, national clinical directors and Media Centre staff.


Alan Johnson

Pharmaceutical Services

In April, we published the Government’s White Paper, “Pharmacy in England—Building on Strengths, Delivering the Future” (Cm 7341). The White Paper set out our future proposals for expanding high quality, clinical pharmaceutical services for patients and consumers and developing pharmacists’ role as a leading clinical profession.

Following publication of Lord Darzi’s comprehensive and groundbreaking NHS “Next Stage Review Final Report” (Cm 7432) and our vision for primary and community care, we will publish next month the further consultation on structural changes for pharmaceutical services promised in the White Paper. I am keen that we give everyone involved and concerned ample opportunity to consider these in full. Consultation will therefore run through to the autumn and will be accompanied by relevant impact assessments. We also plan to hold further national events to support comprehensive discussion and debate as part of that consultation.

Since publication of the White Paper, we have proceeded quickly to the next stages to support implementation of our programme. We have:

held a series of national listening events in May to support the launch. Over 630 delegates attended drawn from the NHS, the professions and representative bodies. The events gave delegates the opportunity to consider and to discuss our plans in more detail, including a number of key ideas for structural change which the Government believe are necessary to underpin the White Paper programme. We will publish our report of those events alongside the forthcoming consultation;

announced in the NHS “Next Stage Review Final Report” that a new independent advisory non-departmental public body, Medical Education England, will advise the Department on education, training and workforce planning for pharmacists, as well as doctors, dentists and healthcare scientists;

held events to discuss with pharmacists and others implementation and delivery options for the vascular risk assessment programme, including offering vascular checks through pharmacies;

subject to Royal Assent, the Health and Social Care Bill has completed its passage through both Houses. In due course, a new General Pharmaceutical Council will be created to oversee the pharmacy profession. Consultation on the proposed order for the Council will begin in the summer and it is intended to hold consultation events GB-wide in September and October; and

published responses to our consultation on the responsible pharmacist. We will lay regulations before Parliament in early autumn to implement a new statutory framework that will support pharmacists in using their clinical skills and those of pharmacy staff to improve patients’ access to a wider range of services.

To support further work we:

are publishing later today the national template for a service specification for chlamydia screening, to support primary care trusts commissioning of a locally commissioned enhanced service. This will be available on the website of NHS Primary Care Contracting at:

will shortly advertise the posts of the two new pharmacy national clinical directors. They will provide strong, authoritative clinical leadership for pharmacists at both local and national level, championing the development of services and helping implement actions from the White Paper in hospitals and in the community; and

are commissioning further research to map the target audiences for a pharmacy public communications programme. This will particularly focus on those people with long-term conditions and who are most affected by health inequalities. The results, to be available later this autumn, will inform the next stages of implementation.

Home Department

Justice and Home Affairs Informal Council

The French presidency’s Informal Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held in Cannes on 7 and 8 July 2008. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice) and I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. Since it was an informal Council, no formal decisions were taken. The following issues were discussed:

During the first session of the Council, member states considered what practical measures could be taken to improve the internal security of the EU and police co-operation. All welcomed the presidency idea that police co-operation should be developed around the principle of convergence, with most defining that to mean practical changes to improve cross border working by police forces, such as radio interoperation, data-sharing, work on major events and in tourist areas. Several called for more European police training.

The UK agreed with the practical approach recalling that, especially on the third anniversary of the London bombings, one of our top priorities remained counter terrorism. As such we welcomed the work led by the counter terrorism co-ordinator. Counter-radicalisation, projects like the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre (MAOC(N)) on drugs, criminal asset confiscation, cybercrime, and a data-sharing and protection strategy were also all important. The presidency concluded by confirming that the lack of a new treaty did not stand in the way of the practical measures Ministers wanted.

The presidency introduced their paper in the Civil Protection session by stressing the need for the EU to be prepared, improve capabilities, convergence and interoperability and suggesting that some ‘modules’ (specialised intervention teams based on member state assets) be put on standby. A number of member states supported the need for co-operation, but responded with caution regarding new structures and any suggestion of EU authority over national resources. Modules must remain on a voluntary basis to ensure that member states have full control over the use of their own assets. It was concluded that these should remain voluntary but the EU should look at any capability gaps and support joint training initiatives.

Over lunch, the final report of the interior future group was presented and there was a general discussion with member states welcoming it.

We expect the work of both of the future groups to be officially concluded at the JHA Council at the end of July.

The presidency presented the Migration Pact and said that they hoped to adopt it at the October Council. All member states supported the pact but raised points of detail, with some arguing that asylum procedures should not be changed, others wanting a single consolidated instrument on legal migration procedures, concerns regarding the creation of a common border guard; and some seeking a stronger reference to burden sharing of people.

The UK welcomed the pact and noted that the EU should continue to focus on practical measures that deliver results including on data-sharing, border control, and passenger name records (PNR). The EU’s border agency, Frontex, (among others) should be used to strengthen the external border but the responsibility should remain with the member states. On asylum, the UK stressed that the EU should focus on implementing existing asylum legislation. The EU must provide a haven, but also needed to work together to combat abuse. The global approach to migration needed to be further implemented although we needed to be clearer on the links between development and migration.

The first justice session opened with a debate introduced by the presidency about whether judges required further training in EU law and judicial co-operation. Most member states welcomed the discussion but concerns were raised about judicial independence and the way the training should be delivered. Most thought that any such training should be open to judges, prosecutors and court officials and that the key subjects should be EU law, other member states’ law and language training.

The second justice session focused on the protection of children and vulnerable adults. For the discussion on protecting children, the presidency urged member states to establish national missing child alert systems which should be interoperable. The UK supported both the principle and detail of the presidency’s ideas and explained that the UK was rolling out an alert system. Information sharing on convicted sex offenders, use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition were all also useful. The presidency concluded that the child alert system would be taken forward.

There was a discussion about how the European Union should deal with the question of the protection of vulnerable adults in order to meet the challenges of an ageing population and the high level of mobility of European citizens. The presidency encouraged member states to ratify the Hague Convention on the International Protection of Vulnerable Adults and there was a discussion about how member states could improve the implementation of the convention. The UK signed and ratified the convention within Scotland in 2003. Work is underway to extend the convention to cover England and Wales.

There was a short discussion of the report of the Justice future group over lunch. Those Ministers who spoke broadly welcomed the report.


HM Chief Inspector of Probation: Appointment Extension

I am delighted to announce that the appointment of Andrew Bridges CBE as HM Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales has been extended until 31 March 2010. Mr Bridges’ expertise and knowledge will continue to play a key role in enabling the probation inspectorate to deliver a credible and effective inspection programme for the probation service and youth offending teams.

Legal Services Board

The Legal Services Act received Royal Assent on 30 October 2007. Two of the key elements of the Act are the provision of a Legal Services Board (LSB) and the establishment of an Office for Legal Complaints (OLC). The LSB will be an over- arching regulator and the OLC will deal with all complaints about regulated legal service providers.

I am pleased to announce that following open and fair competition, regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments, the Lord Chancellor has appointed:

Terence Connor; Stephen Green; William Moyes; Barbara Saunders; and Nicole Smith as the lay members; and

Rosemary Martin; Michael Napier; Andrew Whittaker; and David Wolfe as the non-lay members.

The board members will take up post from 1 September 2008. The appointments will run for three years.

National Offender Management Service

I am today publishing the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) agency framework document which sets out the Government’s vision for NOMS and how it will be governed as an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. Copies have been made available in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The document is also available on the Ministry of Justice website at

NOMS has the twin aims of protecting the public and reducing reoffending. It is responsible for commissioning and delivering adult offender management services both in custody and in the community in England and Wales. The agency is central to the Ministry of Justice’s work to deliver better outcomes for society, improve further the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, and take forward recommendations for streamlining management structures and reducing overhead costs following Lord Carter’s latest review of prisons.

Cabinet Office

Official Receptions

I have today published a list of receptions hosted by Cabinet Office Ministers in the 2007-08 financial year.

The total cost of receptions held for the financial year 2007-08 was £2,884.





23 July 2007

Introductory reception with key Cabinet Office stakeholders


Ed Miliband, Phil Hope and Gillian Merron

24 October 2007

Stakeholder reception to mark the announcement of the public service agreement target for socially excluded adults


Ed Miliband, Phil Hope and Gillian Merron

27 February 2008

Reception with media correspondents and stakeholders


Ed Miliband, Phil Hope and Tom Watson

“Greening Government ICT”

The Cabinet Office has today published “Greening Government ICT”, which sets out the steps Government will take to reduce the carbon footprint of their PCs, laptops, data centres and other office equipment. “Greening Government ICT” also sets challenging targets for central Government and the executive agencies, and provides guidance on how these can be achieved.

The document “Greening Government ICT” can be downloaded from the CIO Council website along with a list of potential energy saving measures for ICT at Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Access to Statistics

On 10 December 2007 the Government published its consultation document “Limiting Pre-Release Access to Statistics”. The consultation ran over 12 weeks and closed on 3 March 2008. The Government proposed to tighten the rules under which pre-release access can be granted by:

reducing pre-release access to a maximum of 24 hours;

reducing the number of statistics to which pre-release access is granted to a minimum; and

reducing the number of people to whom pre-release access is granted to a minimum.

The Government are grateful for the responses they received to the consultation, which they found helpful in refining and developing their proposals.

The Government are taking forward its proposals and will shortly lay the Pre- Release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 before Parliament for approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.

I am pleased to announce the publication of the Government’s response to the consultation, “Limiting Pre-release Access to Statistics: the Government’s response to the consultation exercise”.

Copies of this report have been placed in the Libraries of the House. The report is also available on the Cabinet Office website at

Leader of the House

Regional Accountability

I would like to inform the House that I intend to publish a command paper outlining the Government’s response to the Modernisation Committee’s third report of the 2007-08 session on regional accountability (HC282) on Monday 21 July. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.


Correction to Written Answers

Subsequent to written answers I gave on 29 January, 11 March and 2 April 2008, to parliamentary questions on data-handling, I would like to inform the House that further investigation has revealed additional information.

The response to the Hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) (Question 175768), [ 29 January 2008, Official Report, column 197W], should have included reference to three further instances of data being accessible overseas:

First, the Vehicle Operator Services Agency has an IT contract with Siemens covering the computerisation of the MOT scheme. The Siemens data centre is based in the UK and all operational data are stored in the UK. However, some of the data were processed by Siemens staff in India on a controlled basis for the purpose of correcting and updating software code. The data were not transferred to a physical storage device outside of the UK, and the data could not be saved, amended or copied to any device in India.

The information that was potentially viewable on this basis was as follows:

information relating to the construction/specification and the registration mark of all vehicles in Great Britain that are subject to the MOT scheme. This does not include

any details in relation to the registered keeper of the vehicle;

details of 65,500 nominated testers under the MOT scheme comprising individual’s name, home address, date of birth, telephone number and driving licence number; and

details of 16,500 individuals authorised examiners under the MOT scheme comprising individual’s name, business address, business telephone and fax number.

Siemens were instructed to revoke all access to operational data from India in relation to the MOT computerisation system on 12 June 2008.

Separately, the central Department has a contract with Siemens for a public enquiry service that uses a system provided under contract by RightNow Technologies. That company back up the information transporting the data electronically via an encrypted channel to their Disaster Recovery Centre in Chicago where it is held in an unencrypted form in a physically secure environment. A further unencrypted tape backup is maintained by Iron Mountain in a vault in New Jersey. The information includes business contact details of DfT staff, and details of calls and callers’ names and telephone numbers for queries that have been referred to the DfT internal team for answer.

Finally the central Department uses an online survey site hosted by, a US company whose site is hosted in the United States. This facility has been used by the Department to conduct surveys including staff surveys. Personal information relating to DfT staff included name, workplace address, qualifications and employment experience. It was also used by VOSA to get feedback on staff events such as their annual conference.

The response to Question 179889 from the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice),[11 March 2008, Official Report, columns 211-13W] should have included:

In addition to Fujitsu Database Administrators, IBM Database Administrators also have direct access to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s (DVLA) registers.

Finally, in response to Question 197148 from the hon. Member for Carmathen East & Dinefwr (Adam Price), [2 April 2008, Official Report, columns 1010-11W] the following should have been included:

The central Department uses an online survey site hosted by, a US registered company whose site is hosted in the United States. This facility has been used by the Department to conduct surveys including staff surveys. Personal information relating to DfT staff included name, workplace address, qualifications and employment experience. It was also used by VOSA to get feedback on staff events such as their annual conference.

Highways Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2007-08

The “Highways Agency Annual Report and Accounts for 2007-08” is published today under section 7 of the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000. A copy of the report will be placed in the House Library. Copies are available from the Vote Office.

Local Transport Bill

The Local Transport Bill, currently before Parliament, contains measures to improve public transport and tackle road congestion.

Assuming the Bill receives Royal Assent, the Government propose to issue guidance and make secondary legislation to support the implementation of various provisions in the Bill. In preparation for this, and to inform debate in the remaining parliamentary stages of the Bill, the Department for Transport will shortly be publishing consultations covering:

draft guidance and regulations relating to quality partnership schemes and voluntary partnership agreements (to apply in England and, partly, in Wales); and

draft regulations needed to implement the new flexibilities for the community transport sector (to apply throughout Great Britain).

The Office of Fair Trading will also shortly be consulting on joint guidance with the Department, explaining how competition law applies in the bus market. This guidance will be relevant in England and Wales.

The draft guidance and regulations, and accompanying consultation papers, will be made available on the Department for Transport website, and copies will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Other consultations related to the implementation of the Bill are expected to be published later in the year.

Civil Aviation Authority

I am publishing today, and placing in the Libraries of both Houses, Sir Joseph Pilling’s report of his independent strategic review of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK’s aviation regulator. I commissioned this review last September, following a recommendation by the Transport Committee of this House.

I am grateful to Sir Joseph for his thoughtful report and his recognition of the important contribution which the CAA makes to aviation in the UK and internationally. He found that the CAA has been and continues to be highly successful, but he concluded that its framework and organisation could be modernised to meet future challenges in the fast-changing aviation sector.

Some of Sir Joseph’s recommendations are for the Government, including some which are relevant to the separate review of airport economic regulation which I announced recently, and to work on improving the passenger experience. I intend to consider these recommendations in detail over the summer and to make a fuller statement in the autumn. Interested parties who wish to comment on the report should write to me by the end of September.

Some of the key recommendations deal with the CAA’s governance and would bring the way that the organisation operates more in line with modern regulatory practice. It would be advantageous to make the governance reforms soon, to help lead the further changes envisaged.

The current Chair, Sir Roy McNulty, completes his term next year after a very distinguished period in that office since 2001. My Department will shortly start the process of seeking a part-time non-executive Chair and then a new Chief Executive, on the basis envisaged by Sir Joseph Pilling.

I am pleased that the CAA board has welcomed the overall outcome of the review, and has confirmed the CAA’s willingness to work closely with my Department in the programme of implementation.

The report is available on the Department for Transport website and printed copies can be obtained from: DfT Publications, Tel: 0870 1226 236, Textphone: 0870 1207 405, Email:

Departmental Agencies

I am pleased to announce that the Department for Work and Pensions has today laid in the House the 2007-08 annual reports and accounts for its executive agencies: Jobcentre Plus (HC 707), the Pension Service (HC 855), the Disability and Carers Service (HC 719), and the Rent Service (HC 729). The annual report and accounts of the Child Support Agency will be laid shortly.

Work and Pensions

Employment and Social Policy Informal Meeting

The employment and social policy informal meeting was held on 10 to 11 July 2008 in Chantilly, France. I represented the UK.

The theme of the informal meeting was “Revising the European Social Agenda”. This provided the chance to discuss the Commission’s social package, which was launched at the beginning of July 2008.

The meeting started with a Ministers only breakfast meeting looking at ideas to make social Europe more concrete and closer to its citizens. A “social Europe week” and a common declaration from all member states of the EU’s “social offer/deal” to its citizens were some of the ideas raised.

There were three plenary sessions, each devoted to specific challenges linked to social Europe: the impacts of climate change and globalization, of changing demographic structures and the fights against poverty and discrimination. There was broad support by all delegations for the Commission’s renewed social agenda and interesting discussions on poverty and active inclusion in particular. For the UK, I pledged broad support for the new proposals whilst highlighting some of the areas which would need further work. I raised the challenges posed by financial exclusion and the further possible useful work at a European level in this area. Other member states welcomed this positive statement on anti-discrimination and thought the financial exclusion point was a good example of specific problems needing concrete answers and they were willing to discuss further.

An innovation by the presidency was the introduction of web chats at the end of each plenary session. The public had been invited to put questions to Ministers via the French presidency website and these were answered by whichever Minister chose to.

I answered a question on active ageing, pointing out the economic implications, the importance of skills, the need to exchange information and best practice and the challenges of anti discrimination. I met bilaterally with Ministers from Denmark, Sweden, and Italy, and I hope that the new Italian Minister will visit the UK in the autumn and see a Jobcentre Plus office. I was also able to discuss with the French High Commissioner for Active Solidarity against Poverty, Martin Hirsch, UK views on EU social experimentation, including the trans-national pilot projects which we believe can offer significant new insights in the field of social inclusion.

Social Fund Commissioner

The Social Fund Commissioner’s annual report has been published today and a copy placed in the House of Commons Library.

The report covers the work of the Independent Review Service, whose Social Fund Inspectors provide an independent means of review for applicants who are dissatisfied with the decisions made on their applications for the discretionary Social Fund.